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|3/7/2013||Point of View: ‘Going Clear’: Must reading on Scientology|
|10/19/2011||Point of View: Mormonism, political endorsements and voting: A pastor’s thoughts|
|9/8/2010||Point of View: Gainesville pastor has it all wrong|
|7/2/2009||Point of View: Two Funerals—Michael Jackson's and one you haven't heard about|
|9/18/2008||Point of View: Florida Baptists, time to take a stand|
|View All Articles by WILLIAM RICE|
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For decades Scientology has gained ground among celebrities and artists, and has amassed a fortune through its billable religious services permitting it to buy and build across America and the world. You have to travel no further than our city of Clearwater to notice Scientology’s impressive presence. For decades, the cult has guarded its secrets and exercised a seemingly oppressive control over some of its most ardent followers. Few have been able to peer inside the high walls. As a result, the organization, even its doctrine, has remained something of a mystery. But now, like breaks in a dam starting to gather, more and more top leaders have fled the church and some are starting to talk. The story they tell is about more than confused doctrine; it is of horrifying abuse and maniacal leadership.
Several new books recently have been released that continue to catalogue the disturbing record of Scientology. The niece of David Miscavige, the controversial leader of the church, writes one of them, Beyond Belief. Jenna Miscavige Hill details her secret life inside the church and her harrowing escape. Going Clear, is an investigative book written by Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Wright’s volume is a comprehensive overview of Scientology that details the life of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, the development of his self-help process known as Dianetics, the curious rise of the church and the development of its doctrine, and the current state of affairs under the mysterious leader Miscavige. The book is not written from a Christian perspective and in some ways that is helpful. The book is not a comparison of Christian doctrine to Scientology beliefs and practices. Rather, it’s an investigation into the religion itself. It is deeply disturbing.
Much of Wright’s allegations are not new, but Wright has thoroughly researched and compiled the remarkable assertions into a comprehensive work. Evangelicals will find particularly interesting the spiritual roots of Hubbard’s own life and thought process. Wright details Hubbard’s involvement with a group connected to the occult. He documents that Hubbard lived for a time in a communal home dedicated to the witchcraft and sexual “magick” influenced by the writings on Aleister Crowley, a notorious occultist—some would say, Satanist. Wright alleges that Hubbard’s family lived an extremely immoral lifestyle and cites sources that claim Hubbard engaged in séances with the spirit world praying to and consorting with demon goddesses. Hubbard’s own son is quoted as saying that such practices were the “seed and the beginning of Dianetics and Scientology.” The Church of Scientology cannot deny the overwhelming evidence that Hubbard was involved with these occult leaders, but they maintain an implausible explanation that he was acting as a spy for naval intelligence.
This is just one of the parts of Wright’s book that evangelicals will likely find as informative as it is disturbing. Wright further details Hubbard’s life, casting great doubt upon his claimed naval heroics and his personal injuries. On the one hand, he is seen as a brilliant and creative person, inarguably a prolific science fiction writer. On the other hand, Hubbard is described as a deeply troubled narcissist who is a controlling, immoral tyrant. Wright surveys the almost accidental rise of Dianetics, Hubbard’s version of counseling, that purportedly allows a person to gain a greater emotional, physical and spiritual wholeness, known in Scientology as “clear.” The book became an international bestseller and a movement was born. Later, Hubbard organized his church and spent most of the latter part of his life in a type of seclusion traveling the world on a yacht and administrating his growing kingdom.
Wright deals with the appeal of Scientology in the celebrity culture of Southern California and the importance of celebrities to the movement. Of course, none are better known than Tom Cruise. Wright extensively covers the actor’s involvement and importance to the church.
Wright also extensively uncovers and documents the modern era of Scientology under its current leader David Miscavige. Numerous stories are documented about the physical abuse of church workers, harrowing escapes, the well-known practice of intimidation by the church toward defectors and opponents, and its often-winning battles with the government. Numerous defectors were interviewed personally and spoke on the record about physical beatings, people held against their will, strange and abusive antics against some of the church’s top lieutenants. It is no wonder the church has experienced a steady stream of high-level defections that Wright painstakingly details. The reader learns that members of Miscavige’s own family—his brother and father, who introduced him to Scientology—have abandoned the church. Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, has not been heard from or seen in public in years.
Readers will learn some of Scientology’s bizarre spiritual doctrines, including reincarnation, xtraterrestrial exploits, the strange origins of mankind, the mysterious planet of Xenu and more.
Obviously, we live in a nation that values religious freedom. Baptists have long championed religious liberty. Still, most observers will be alarmed at the abuses and practices of the Church of Scientology. This is no harmless, quirky group. It is a dangerous organization that has been the subject of numerous government investigations and whose treatment of others, including children, skirts with abusive and illegal activity.
In one scene, Wright describes Cruise berating his live-in girlfriend (allegedly hand-picked by senior Scientology leaders, including Miscavige): “Cruise himself explained the seriousness of the situation: ‘You don’t get it. It goes like this.’ He raised his hand over his head. ‘First, there’s [Hubbard].’ He moved his hand down a few inches. ‘Then, there is [Miscavige].’ Bringing his hand down to his eye level, he said, ‘Then there’s me.’”
Every Christ follower grimaces and grieves at such a characterization, knowing that there is only one who is “up there” and that is the perfect man, God’s own Son, our Lord Jesus. The difference between Jesus and the leaders of Scientology could not be greater. They are a world apart, indeed an eternity apart.
From its use of the term “church” to the distorted cross they use as a symbol, Scientology has tried to cloak itself in an aura of legitimate religion. The government has recognized it as such in granting its tax-exempt status. But to those interested in the truth about God and about mankind, that is no solace. Scientology is dangerous doctrine that has deceived thousands, continues to operate on the edges of the law, and viciously assails critics and defectors.
I pray that more defectors break out and speak out. Here’s hoping that more books like Wright’s and Jenna Miscavige’s continue to expose the lies and deceptions of Scientology so that this movement, built upon the sands of spiritual deception, comes quickly tumbling down.
Rice is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater.
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